On Friday, I headed out to Sosh with Doug, having three objectives in mind. I was planning to read and discuss the second half of the book of Ruth with the women. Doug needed to meet with Emily and Anna and a friend, Alena, to talk about some money that had been sent from America to help Alena build a house. We also wanted to take our friend Doris to meet and visit with Martha, who's very ill with HIV/AIDS. We left early, allowing time for all of the above to happen. Or so we thought...
As it turned out, Doris wasn't available until later in the afternoon, so we planned to do Bible study first off--Doug with the guys, and me with the women. But we had to track down people first. It was laundry day, and both Emily and Anna were busy with that. Anna kept sending text messages to Sophia to tell her to come home so we could read the Bible.
Doug finally did gather the guys and they started their Bible study. Meanwhile, the women all seemed busy with something else, coming in and out, taking care of other things. I grew uneasy about whether we'd have time to read together, and uncertain as to when I should get started. As we waited for Sophia to come home, I suggested that we plan the outing we've been talking about for months. And we did! The women were so excited to plan a day for all of us to just relax together--with no kids. As they put it, "Sisters and Mothers Only!"
The afternoon wore on, and I could hear the guys outside, having their Bible discussion. Meanwhile, I was sitting inside listening as Emily and Anna talked with Alena (in Sotho, of course) about the money for her house. Hearing Emily with Alena, hearing her taking leadership, trying to make sure that the situation was handled the best way for Alena and that the money was actually used for a house and not spent carelessly...it was then that I realized this was more important at that moment than studying Ruth and checking off one more objective from my agenda for the afternoon. Yes, studying the Bible is important, but on Friday, building relationships, planning time we could be together, helping others in the neighborhood--those are what God had for the afternoon, rather than reading chapters 3-4 of Ruth.
Doug and the guys finished their study and came inside, and when Doug asked how our study had gone, I was able to answer quite cheerfully that we hadn't even started. He had heard back from Doris and she was on her way home, so while we waited for her to arrive, I went outside and watched the kids dancing as the sun sank lower and lower in the sky.
At the beginning of June, we had a guy stay with us at Pangani for about a week as part of a year-long pilgrimage he's in the middle of. He's been blogging daily, reflecting on his journeys and the communities of faith he's visiting along the way. As I watched this group of neighborhood kids dance, David's post about visiting Granny's house popped into my mind. David commented that he felt like dancing at Granny's looked like heaven.
This week, we've begun reading Dallas Willard's book The Divine Conspiracy. In it, he discusses Jesus' proclamation that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand--present, here with us, a reality in which we can participate. As I watched the kids at Granny's hanging out together, dancing in the afternoon sun, laughing, and so full of life, I couldn't help but think that this isn't just like heaven...it's the kingdom of heaven. Granny's house is a place where I see God and His kingdom, here and now. And as we left Granny's at dusk and traveled to Block EE to visit Martha (without Doris after all)--Emily and Anna taking us to help bring comfort to a friend who is suffering--I saw the kingdom of heaven in action. And that's what it's really about, after all.